News Release

Killing at School: Behind the Images


WASHINGTON — In two weeks, the boys accused of the deadly shooting spree at their school in Jonesboro, Arkansas go on trial. Criminal justice and youth experts associated with the Institute for Public Accuracy say the trial — scheduled to get underway shortly before millions of students across the nation return to classes — should not be used to exploit the tragedy of school violence. The analysts warn against crafting policies and making statements that fuel fear at one of the safest institutions in America: schools.

Among those available for comment are:

Schiraldi is director of the Justice Policy Institute, which is releasing a report July 29th that shows there was no increase in school shooting deaths over a six-year period, despite the recent spate of school shootings. Schiraldi said: “Principals and teachers are going to go to school with this heightened fear of their children, even though our study shows there’s not a shred of evidence that school killing is on the increase — and school killings are extraordinarily rare to begin with. You find me an environment where there are 20 million adults that results in 40 killings in a year, and I’ll get your picture on the cover of Time magazine! If you’re afraid of getting killed in America, you ought to run into one of our schools.”

Staff attorney at the Youth Law Center, Schindler said: “Our concern is that when you have high profile violent events … it’s all too easy for policy makers and elected officials to jump on the bandwagon to look tough. What we really need to do is take a thoughtful approach to what types of things could be done to prevent, or at least reduce, tragedies like this in the future. Clearly the answer is not to just lock more kids up or prosecute them as adults.”

A criminologist and sociologist who teaches in the legal studies program at the University of California-Berkeley, Currie is a researcher at the university’s Center for the Study of Law and Society. “The more effective measures [to end school violence] are going to have to include restoring some of the supportive adult help for kids that we have taken away from them in the last 10 to 15 years,” Currie said. “Just as we have been talking very loudly about cracking down on juvenile crime and getting tough with young thugs, we have been cutting back on school counselors, mental health services for teenagers and other supportive services that could help to prevent these tragedies in the first place.”

Executive director of The National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention, Bowen said: “We think in general that alienation, isolation and those types of things often lead to violence. We think that when citizens come together to create visions for their communities and develop solutions for their problems, we can develop safe environments. Youth are a part of that. They have an important role to play in developing communities that are conducive to their own growth and development.”

For more information, contact Theresa Caldwell or Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020 or (202) 332-5055.